Network Admin Plugins

Previously on the CogitActive Saga:
I was now the Network Super Admin. My first action as the Super Admin was to Network Activate the plugin that I had initially de-activated.

Going back to my setting up of WordPress Multisite, one of the preliminary steps was to deactivate all the plugins – a precautionary measure to avoid any conflict during the installation. Obviously, once done with the network creation, I reactivated them again. I did not describe the procedure in the aforementioned post, though. May I now rectify that oversight?

In keeping with my tour of the Network Admin (see Network Settings), this is actually a good opportunity to briefly go through the Network Admin Plugins screen (My Sites > Network Admin > Plugins). Now, there is no point in reinventing the wheel; the WordPress codex has an article on that matter.

A brief overview

With neither explaining what plugins are nor covering their management1, the least I can do is to address what is specific to Multisite (as compared to a regular WordPress installation). Actually, there is not much difference – at least for the Super Admin. Granted, the Plugins menu is located on the left side of the Network Admin, but the sub-menus are the same.

Installed Plugins

As explained in the aforementioned codex article2, the so-called Table of Plugins lists all the installed plugins with a quick description, which includes the version of the plugin, its author and some detail information.

Under the plugin name, there are links to the following actions:

  • Network Activate (or Network Deactivate)
  • Edit
  • Delete

The Network Activate link is the big difference between plugins listed on the regular Dashboard and those listed on the Network Admin Dashboard3. For this reason, I will address it in more details later in this post.

While the Delete link doesn’t require more explanation, it is worth mentioning that only Network Administrator and the user who has Super Admin Role can add and delete [plugins]2.

The Edit link is just a shortcut to the Editor screen (see below). Likewise, the Add New button takes you to the Add New screen (see below).

Site-specific Plugins screen

As pointed out earlier, there is a second Plugins menu in the dashboard of the individual sites. The screen is, however, very limited as compared to its Network Admin counterpart.

In particular, quoting the WordPress codex2, there is:

  • No Add New button at the top of Screen nor Add New sub menu in the dashboard
  • No Edit link under each Plugin name nor Editor sub menu in the dashboard
  • No Delete link under each Plugin name

In fact, the only action available is Activate (or Deactivate). In addition, there might be a link to the plugin settings when appropriate.

Add New

As the name suggests, this is where the installation of new Plugins takes place. As detailed in the dedicated codex article4, from this screen, you can search the WordPress Plugin Directory or upload plugins you have downloaded elsewhere. The installation process is as simple as clicking a button, namely Install Now.

Network admins are the only people who can install new plugins on the site; regular users don’t have that kind of access.Lisa Sabin-Wilson


Though it should be rare that you need to do so, this screen allows you to edit plugins’ individual code. If you are interested, you may consider reading the codex article on that matter5.

Be aware that if you make changes, plugins updates will overwrite your customizations. Also, any edits to files from this screen will be reflected on all sites in the network.

In keeping with warnings, be very careful editing activated plugin files5. Not only the editor does not make backup copies5, but also if you introduce an error that crashes your site, you cannot use the editor to fix the problem5.

Network Activate vs Activate

As a Super Admin, you can either “Network Activate” or “Activate” plugins. While the former will activate them across the entire network (i.e. for all sites in the network), the latter will do so only for the site from which you activate it.

Hence, after installing a plugin, you have to decide whether you want to activate it globally (i.e. Network Activate) or to do so only for some sites (i.e. Activate). Importantly, a network-activated plugin cannot be deactivated from the site-specific Plugins screen. For this reason, if you want to activate plugins on a per-site basis, you should not “Network Activate” them after installation, but instead use the site-specific Plugins screen to “Activate” them.

Now, you know what I meant by My first action as the Super Admin was to Network Activate the plugin that I had initially de-activated. Obviously, the plugin in question was Multisite compatible.

1 Plugins are scripts that, when added to WordPress, extend and expand its functionality. As for their management, you may consider reading Managing Plugins from the WordPress codex. ^
2 See Network Admin Plugins Screen. ^
3 Lisa Sabin-Wilson (2017) WordPress All-in-One For Dummies – Third Edition. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. ^
4 See Plugins Add New Screen. ^
5 See Plugins Editor Screen. ^

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